San Fransisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick recently turned heads when he refused to stand up for the national anthem due to the injustices that minorities, especially African-Americans, in this country are continuing to face despite being in the “Land of the Free.”
Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He continued by saying, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick’s protest has received a mixed variety of responses. Some think he is being extremely disrespectful to the nation and its veterans. While others, veterans included, praise him for standing up for what he believes in and practicing his first amendment right as a U.S. citizen.
Although Kaepernick is spreading awareness about police brutality in this way, he is not the first activist to stand up for injustices by sitting down.
Rosa Parks, frustrated with the racial inequality on the public bus system, refused to give up her seat to a white man sparking the . She chose to sit there even though she knew the consequences and in turn started a revolution, called the Montgomery Bus Boycott, that thousands joined. The transit company and downtown businesses suffered great financial loss for the 381 days of the Montgomery bus boycott. Therefore, the city of Montgomery had no choice but to lift its enforcement of segregation on public buses. Talk about #blackgirlmagic.
In 1960, four college students from North Carolina asked for a coffee at a whites-only local store called Woolworth’s. When they were refused service, they continued to sit at the lunch counter until the store closed. The next day, 24 students sat at the Woolworth’s counter. They sat there, despite the threats and attacks, until the media noticed them. (Sound familiar?) These college students started something huge that spread throughout the South and is still evident today and all they did was sit.
For 25 days in April 1977, a group of 150 disability rights activists took over the fourth floor of a federal building in San Francisco. They sat there and would not leave until President Jimmy Carter and his administration agreed to implement a law protecting the rights of people with disabilities. These demonstrations resulted in the signing of the 1977 Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the first federal civil rights protections for persons with disabilities in the history of the United States.
Just this year, John Lewis, a U.S. representative and civil rights activist, along with 170 lawmakers, staged a sit-in in the House of Representatives concerning gun control after the largest mass shooting in U.S. History. Although legislation was not passed after the day-long sit-in, John Lewis remained optimistic. He said that the fight was not over and he also tweeted, “We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.”
There are many more examples of successful sit-ins that benefitted feminists and automobile workers alike. So to those who do not understand why Colin Kaepernick decided to use this form of protest to make a statement, I ask you to look at the history of sit-ins. They are never practiced without a purpose. There are too many people who ask the oppressed to protest nonviolently, but then question their motives and actions when they do just that.
Yes, we all could do and say more to fight injustice. However, that does not detract from the power of sitting. Change can still occur from people deciding to stand up by sitting down. If that wasn’t true, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because Colin Kaepernick’s sit-in would not have even received media coverage. And neither would Rosa Parks’.